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What's Cookin'? Smithtown - Saving Summer In A Jar

Saving Summer in a Jar 

By Nancy Vallarella

Tomato Day at the Minto’s (Colleen second from left)Canning tomatoes at the Minto home with Colleen Minto has been a tradition for the past 25 years. Tomatoes are bought from local farmers at summer’s end.  Friends and neighbors gather to process the tomatoes and save a little bit of summer in a jar. 

Throughout the fall, winter and spring, the tomatoes are used for sauce, soups, Bloody Mary cocktails and salsa. Colleen’s friend and Nissequogue neighbor, Sue Myer, makes three variations of salsa using the tomatoes: Cry Baby, Wanna Cry, and Hot Baby!

Roma/Plum tomatoes purchased from BB & GG and Fink’s Country Farms at St. James MarketHere’s how Colleen processes the tomatoes (25lbs. of plum tomatoes per case of wide-mouth quart jars):

Sterilize jars and lids in dishwasher. Add 1 tsp. of salt and 2 Tbs. lemon juice to each jar. Thoroughly wash tomatoes. Core or slice stem end of tomato. Carefully drop tomatoes in a pot of boiling water for 2 minutes for the skin to split and remove with slotted spoon. Let tomato cool enough to comfortably handle and peel off skin. DO NOT OVERCOOK TOMATOES during this process. They will turn to mush! Add the tomatoes to the jars. 12 to 14 tomatoes fit in the jar on average. Lightly press tomatoes down with hand or the stem of a wooden spoon. This helps to get the air out. Colleen likes to add 1 garlic clove and fresh basil to each jar.  Leave a ½ inch of headspace in each jar, wipe off rim and place lid on jar. Secure the lid but not extremely tight.

Sealing ProcessHave a water bath canner filled half way with cold water and bring water to a rolling boil. Place tomato filled jars on canning rack and slowly immerse jars into boiling water.  Jars should be covered with a half inch of water. Place cover on the canning pot and watch until the water returns to a rolling boil. Remove cover and set a timer for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, lift the rack with jars out of canning pot and place on a towel-Summer in a Jarlined counter top. You will hear jars make a popping sounds – this means they are sealed! 

Colleen’s tips:

Use plum tomatoes. They are less meaty and fit nicely in the jars.

Have super heat resistant gloves handy.

Water bath canner can be bought at Ace Hardware or Walmart for about $25.

Enjoy the processes and Bloody Marys after - with friends and neighbors!

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